Damian Cole, co-driven by Jack Morton, claimed a hard fought victory on the 2014 Harry Flatters Rally; a perfect warm-up for next weekends Tyneside Stages. Meanwhile top spot in the Historic Rally, round 4 of the BHRC, went the way of fellow Ford crew, Tomas Davies and Mark Crisp in their formidable MK2 Escort.
Just two weeks after the Nicky Grist Stages we were back on Epynt for the Harry Flatters Rally, this time on the tricky tarmac military roads which wind their way across the undulating Mid Wales landscape. Historically one for the specialist, a dry Epynt provides the opportunity for a committed 2WD driver to take it to the best of the WRC crews.
Following the cancellation of Rally North Wales, the Harry Flatters Rally represented the halfway point in the Mintex MSA British Historic Rally Championship and heading into the event David Stokes and Dessie Nutt were tied at the top of the points table with Stanley Orr close behind in third. It was therefore all to play for; with the chance for other drivers to throw their names into the mix with this being the first sealed surface round of the year.
From a photographer’s point of view, the stage layout made it quite tricky to find the desired locations, with Centre road, Piccadilly and the “Hut Jump” all off the schedule. Understandably, given the tragic events which occurred on the Jim Clark, “Barton’s” was one of the few aggressive jumps used and it was here that we headed for the morning stages; followed, after lunch, by a trip to “The Steps”, the 2011 Harry Flatters being the last time I actually saw this section of stage ran downhill.
I am not sure whether the stage layouts contributed to the top two crews beating the bogey time on 7 out of the 13 stages but it did make for a close battle; if not slightly frustrating given that only 6 of the stages turned out to be truly competitive. Damian Cole and Jack Morton were quickest out of the blocks, duly leaping into a 4 second lead over the very short stage 1. Unbeknown at the time to 2013 winners Mark Straker and Neil Harrison, this would in fact be a costly margin of time to lose.
Cole and Morton would only take one other stage victory throughout the day and although Straker was able to match this tally of wins it wasn’t enough to claw back the total deficit, leaving Cole to take his third Harry Flatters victory following his successes in 2010 and 2012. This was in fact his second victory on Epynt this year after taking top spot on the Tour in March and the Hereford driver will be looking to carry this form into round 5 of the MSA National Asphalt Rally Championship on Otterburn next weekend.
Few other crews had trouble with the bogey times which allowed Melvyn Evans and David Gamblin in Mark Worley’s very smart Fiesta R5+ to come home third with top class 6 runners Bob Fowden and Ashley Trimble (pictured) taking 4th. The top five being rounded out by the WRC Impreza of Tim Wilson and Elgan Davies. Osian Pryce and Dale Furniss had been going very well and matching the pace of Melvyn Evans in their Citroen DS3 before unfortunately retiring after the first loop of stages.
With 7th overall Richard Merryman and Kath Curzon claimed class 3 honours in their Darrian T90 which, along with Straker’s class 5 victory, meant that the the small Welsh manufacturer had taken top spot in both of the major Ford Escort MK2 categories; a feat which does not occur all that often!
With 11th overall, the Mitsubishi Evo 9 crew of Rob Tout and Dan Holley put in a solid performance to take victory in class 8 while Darren and Sue Underwood took class 2 honours with 20th overall in their Vauxhall Nova.
Another Darrian in the hands of David Morgan and Richard Suter (pictured) was first home in class 1 while Ford restored some pride with top spots in class 7 and 4. Andrew Davies and Ian Taylor and David Comley and Allin James being the respective crews in each category.
It was the longer stages where, non BHRC championship registered crew, Tomas Davies and Mark Crisp were able to take the most time out of their opposition; eventually establishing a winning margin of 1 minute 18 seconds over David Stokes and Guy Weaver in the Class C5 MK1. The competitive C5 class was responsible for 3 of the top 5 positions with Stanley Orr and Brian Cairns finishing 4th and rally legend Jimmy McRae, co-driven by Pauline Gullick, claiming 5th spot in the Vauxhall Firenza.
Ian Jones and Iestyn Williams would be the first registered Category D car home in 6th place overall; some three minutes clear of Shawn Rayner and Declan Dear in their similar MK2. Kevin Davies and Dale Bowen had looked like potential winners of class D and were challenging Tomas Davies and Mark Crisp for top spot before retiring after stage 8. Top seeds, Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke meanwhile were surprisingly off the pace all day before eventually retiring after stage 12.
Category B proved to be very close early on as Bob Gibbons, Dessie Nutt and Rikki Proffitt all shared fastest category times over the first 6 stages. It was therefore a massive disappointment that the Cortina of Bob and Dale Gibbons and Porsche of Rikki proffitt and Phil Harrison would not make it past the halfway point of the event. This allowed Dessie Nutt, co-driven by Geraldine McBride to take it a little easier over the second half of the rally but still take category honours by nearly 4 minutes.
With both Dessie Nutt and David Stokes taking maximum Category points they remain tied at the top of the championship table as the crews head to Ulster for round 5 of what is now a 7 round championship following the cancellation of Rallye Dorset. This battle may well be settled on the final round in Scotland as neither Nutt or Stokes look like dropping points any time in the near future!
For full results please see the Rally Roots website.
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